Friday, August 19, 2011

My Guide to Start Mining Bitcoins Today (Better Late Than Never)


If you haven't the slightest clue what a bitcoin is, how to find them, or what they do, I suggest you diverge and follow the link below to my first post discussing bitcoins. The article gives a brief synopsis of how the concept works, coupled with my opinions on it's past, present and future status.

Link to Bitcoin Introduction Post:

How to Get Started Mining Bitcoins
1. First off, you need to figure out just what your hardware can do. Here's two quick but important bits of information:

!!! Important !!!
**One or more AMD/ATI GPU's will mine faster than almost all other CPU or GPU options**
AMD/ATI HD 5700, 5800, 5900, 6700, 6800, 6900 series desktop graphics cards will provide the best bitcoin mining results. Multiple cards and other PCs with these cards will multiply mining results. nVidia cards will work fine, but they will not be nearly as effective as AMD/ATI cards due to using a different processing design and chip architecture (nVidia uses their proprietary CUDA architecture)

!!! Important !!!
**Here is an extremely helpful chart which lists the Mhash/s values for nearly every kind of Processor and Graphics Card:
Use this chart to find your hardware and calculate a ballpark Mhash/s mining rate. If your hash rate is below 100Mhash/s it's going to take days or week(s), even in a mining pool (see below) for you to get even ONE BITCOIN.
!!! Important !!!
*** Notes: When referring to the calculating power of a CPU/GPU, the term hash/s with a prefix K-(kilo or thousand) or M-(mega or million) is used to denote it's ability to calculate a said number of possible solution strings(hashes) per second for cracking a bitcoin block's problem. ***

***Each solved bitcoin block rewards 50 bitcoins to the successful miner!***
**** Calculated million hashes per second = Mhash/s (more Mhash/s = better) ****

2. So, step one just included some important info you'll always need to
know; step two involves putting that info to use. Now you need analyze the hardware you have to work with. Take some time and find out what your CPU and (if possible) GPU are in your computer. If you have only a single PC at home containing your average CPU and/or GPU that's aged 3-4+ years, you will most likely not find any real profit or satisfaction in bitcoin mining. Laptops are generally a no go for mining as well, due to heat and power constraints. However, despite however technologically lacking you might be, you're still more than welcome (I encourage everyone never to quit) to continue reading on and carry out any, albeit slow, mining endeavors on that old machine; if at least for the experience..... Right? :)


Ways to check your system CPU and GPU specs:

-DXDIAG Method:
1. Hold down the "windows key" and then simultaneously press "r"
Go to: [Start] >> [Run] or [Windows Bubble] >> [Run]
2. Type "dxdiag"
3. Then press enter or click "run"
4. If there's a popup prompt just click "no" or whatever you want, otherwise skip this.
5. Wait for the diagnostic to finish.
6. Clicking the "Display" tab will show your GPU, the "System" tab will show CPU info.

-Google Method:
1. If your PC is a store bought pre-built machine or laptop(amazon, newegg, bestbuy), look for a manufacturer name and model number on case
2. Go to Google and type in both to search bar; look for a list of system specs online

-Invasive Method:
*** Warning: I don't recommend this method to inexperienced PC people. Proceed at your own risk. I'm not responsible for any possible damage done by the user to a computer. ***
1. Find the thumb screws on the back of your tower and remove them
2. Slide off the side of your case/tower
3. Grab a flashlight (if needed) and look around inside for model #s and manufacturers
4. Generally the CPU model is listed on the actual die, which is under a heatsink+fan, just use the dxdiag method above which should name the CPU no problems. Alternatively, in WinVista/7 you can go to: [Start] >> [Control Panel] >> [System and Security] >> [System]; or on winXP: just [Start] >> [Control Panel] >> [System]
5. If there's not a rather large, square card in one of the motherboard's expansion slots towards the back (about 3-5" long, blue, beige or black generally), then you don't have a video card.

Now answer these questions:

a) What Processor do I have?
If your answer is an AMD Athlon x2, Intel Dual Core or older you're better off just trying your GPU. Even the most expensive processors on the market only get 20-30 Mhash/s; all while giving off twice the heat and doubling your energy use!
I have an AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE @3.2ghz which barely gets me 10-15 Mhash/s while putting out 45C air into my room and using at least 100W. I'd be losing money most days on electric and cooling costs if I mined with my CPU. I've forgone my processor, and only use a GPU due to the vast efficiency difference.

b) What GPU/Graphics Card do I have?
If you answer with a HD 5770, or maybe even a 6850, or anything in the HD 5000 and HD 6000 series I listed earlier, congratulations! Your rig may be decent at mining and get you anywhere between $3-10/day (mining 24/7 and always depending on variable BTC market trade value)
For a some real life numbers, I have an ATI Radeon HD 5770 which I mine BTC with on occasion. I get roughly 195Mhash/s with it overclocked @ 930mhz GPU core clock (the memory clock is irrelevant and doesn't affect hash/s rate). Hint: Many suggest turning the memory clock as low as possible to save on power consumption; it's a non-factor in your card's mining hash rate, only the core GPU clock affects the rate.

3. Alright, here's hoping you are lucky enough to own an ATI/AMD GPU so you can put that gaming machine to good use while asleep (or maybe you went and built a respectable, dedicated mining rig). If your hardware isn't up to the task of bitcoin mining or maybe it just needs some light improvements (a simple video card can change everything), I'll discuss some hardware options and budget mining rig setups next. Now on to the third step. Setting up a successful mining rig or operation. For the average Joe miner, having one or more (preferably ATI/AMD) GPUs is a must; it's the only current way to mine at a reasonably profitable rate! ATI cards are preferred because their architecture allows them to process more hashes/second.

For example: My ATI HD 5770 video card mining nonstop for 24 hours gets me a total of about .33-.4 bitcoin (yes, that's 1/3 of ONE COIN per day). In comparison, a friend's nVidia GTX 460 only does about 60-70 Mhash/s despite being a slightly better gaming card. ATI/AMD cards aren't designed to mine, it was just pure happenstance that their processing architecture lucked out in being a great method of carrying out the many simple equations needed for mining. The AMD/ATI GPUs are so adept at mining they even eclipse powerful modern processors, putting to shame the workhorse of any PC with it's inadvertently efficient design.

Important Software Needs
It's time to put all this sexy [hopefully] AMD silicon to use!
The following download links are for the software basics which any miner needs:

1. First you'll need to install official Bitcoin client and to setup a wallet to send and receive coins. Remember, bitcoins are stored locally via hard drive. If you lose your HDD and don't backup your wallet, you lose your coins (your bitcoins act just like any file on your PC). Pretend like your wallet is a text document worth all your coins.

Link to a wallet creation tutorial here:
Alternatively, you can simply just download the client here:

2. Next, pick a mining software; I prefer to use GUI Miner which has an easy-to-use visual interface (others may use command line) and comes pre-loaded with some settings for popular pools.

Helpful forum post about guiminer here:
guiminer download links in this post here:

Phoenix Miner (alternative to GUI Miner) download links here:
Phoenix Install Guide here:

Another helpful tutorial for installing a wallet and configuring a mining program (pictures):

After downloading the official bitcoin and mining software, setting up your wallet and configuring your preferred mining program, you're finally ready to join a pool and start mining! Alternatively, you can mine on your own, but once again I highly advise against this unless you have extremely powerful and abundant hardware (making at least 1 Ghash/s) to be able to solve blocks at a reasonable rate.

What is a Pool?
Here is my definition:

Mining Pool - A coalition of miners who agree to combine their resources and work together as one towards their goal of 50 bitcoins from solving a block. The pool shares the spoils of each solved block and each individual participant receives a specific reward calculated from their total work towards solving the block over the entire pool's work. So the more work you put in, the more you get out!!
The equation can be expressed as:

[Individual Miner's Work Share] / [Pool's Total Work Needed to Solve That Block]

The term "pool" is a rather simple label given to a collective force of miners who "pool" or combine their mining power into one entity. A main server hosted on the web represents a single are to connect to. The server acts as one miner which is made up of many individually connected computers who have personal accounts on the host's website. The personal accounts of each connected miner in the pool act as their ID, and allows the host to designate and deliver the respective member's share of BTC based on the total work contributed. hosted by one or more people who use a program to allow multiple people to connect and combine their mining power into one entity.
Many pools require a reasonably small fee (eg. 1 bitcoin every time a block [of 50 coins] is solved) for support purposes. A pool's fee is taken before distributing each miner's share of a block, and is used to help upkeep and maintain the pool's server/website. Some mining pools forego upkeep fees altogether in order to provide a more attractive offer to miners. These "fee-free" pools run purely as a democratic service to miners and provide the same shared coin distributions as pools with fees (based on each individual miner's contribution percentage), but instead handing out the full 50 coin reward from solved blocks. Many of the younger pool servers have no fees in order to help expedite growth. Generally the pools which are free of fees still work to the host's advantage because said host will be able to solve blocks faster in their pool than on their own; not to mention they still get their rightful share from work done. So pools solve blocks faster, making rewards much more often, thus allowing miners without extensive equipment to have regular payouts of coins. All this speed is only in exchange for the small price of server upkeep (a drop in the bucket for serious mining operations)

But what pool should I join? There are so many options...

Pick a popular pool that will be able to solve blocks fairly often, since you'll be getting your share of coins sent to you only when a block is solved. There's a good 5 or so pools which have enough contributing miners to solve a block every day or so. As you continue down the list the frequency of the pool solving block will decrease, with some groups getting a block every few days, weeks, or [rarely] months. Remember, the hash rate for a pool/miner can only be applied from a statistical perspective as the chance/percentage to predict the solution to a block; mining at 1 Ghash/s does not mean you're guaranteed to solve a block at the predicted rate. The solutions to blocks are still only found by plugging in hash values through trial and error; this means one could theoretically solve a block in minutes or months, despite hash rate. Thankfully, statistics is not a reoccurring friend of the outlier, nevertheless keep the mechanics of mining in mind if your pool happens to fall upon a block drought.

Going Solo? I'd Rethink That!

As a miner with a cheap, simple, spare parts rig at home, one can only dream of solving a single block in a reasonable amount of time. Even after weeks (or sometimes months) of grinding away, day after day, running a perpetually powered mining machine nonstop, you still may not have solved a block; this is where pools come in. Without a pool you're essentially gambling on whether days, weeks, or months of work (depending on equipment) will actually net you either: an overall financial gain (contingent upon invested resources, hardware, utilities),
or the 50 coins from solving a block at all. To reiterate, there is no coin payment to a solo miner unless he/she solves a full block and gets the 50 coin reward. If you're more conservative in your overall mining endeavor, investments and resources, a pool is the only way to be sure of ever getting anything out of mining.

Due to the uncannily low probability for someone on a simple home rig mining at 200-300Mhash/s to solve a block in even months of constant mining, it's best to join a pool. As explained above, with a pool you have tens or even hundreds of people with a 200 Mhash/s home rig working as one giant miner; this allows for faster solving of blocks and faster payouts to each individual, based on their share of mining work towards that block. the pool's owner, each time the group finds a correct hash receive a portion of each block the pool solves collectively It is completely possible (but with an unimaginably small chance) for some lucky devil to decide to mine by themselves on a laptop at some absurdly low rate such as 3 Mhash/s, and solve a block for a quick 50 coins! However, the prevailing winds of the bitcoin system prefer to follow to the more methodical laws of probability and allow generalized predictions based on hash rates. It's also completely possible (and also unlikely) that the same person mining by themselves at a snail's pace 3 Mhash/s, will not crack a block for decades. In the end, probability outweighs all else while mining and you can get a general prediction of when a block will be solved based on one's hash/s rate.

Solving and Explaining The Block

A Block, is the term used analogously to describe a digital collection comprised of vast amounts of unique equations. Each individual bitcoin transaction that takes place automatically creates a multitude of complex equations which are placed inside different blocks. The equations act both as a method for checking the validity of each and every coin transfer, and serves as a piece in the construction of a new block. When a block is solved, the correct hash has been found and the structure of transaction-spawned equations are proven and confirmed. Each transfer of coins on the bitcoin network is checked many times (100+), with equations being embedded in a vast quantity of individual blocks. Thus, miners are inputting long number strings (or hashes) to both, [hopefully] solve the block, fulfill the proof and get the reward, in addition to subconsciously confirming every transaction held within said solved block at the time.

Now, one might think the block system seems kind of tedious, even though it's purpose has an ingenious duality. but in fact it has a third advantage built into itself which is balanced equality. Using a very democratic method, each block has a set of completely random, unknown equations which has only one hash value (solution) that is a proof for the equations to show they are true. With no hints or clues anywhere to give an advantage, the only way to prove a block's equation set is by repetitively plugging in many extremely large numerical values (hashes). Using computational processing power, miners create anywhere from a thousand to billions of hashes each second, through which the mining software inserts to check if it's a block's valid proof. One by one, an unfathomable amount of numbers are checked until a block's sole proof is finally found, and 50 coins are rewarded to the lucky miner.
A foundation of extremely repetitive trial and error allows bitcoin to provide a coveted method of equal opportunities for all miners. Through a very original use of mathematics, the bitcoin block system of disbursal is a superb vehicle to throttle the system's growth, while also helping prevent anyone from obtaining a meaningful advantage.

Basics of The Coin and Backing Up That Fat Stash!

Bitcoins are transferred using a unique address which is listed in your address book, and randomly generated by the bitcoin program for each user. Your address can be changed at will, but each person is only limited to 100 unique addresses per software download, so use them wisely. An important thing to remember is that your wallet and it's contained bitcoins are stored locally as a file on your hard disk; this means if your HDD dies, you delete your wallet, or something happens to the wallet file, all your coins will be lost. Luckily, you can save a copy of your wallet for backup purposes. I highly suggest backing up your wallet files and storing them on a separate partition, extra hard drive, removable USB thumb drive, or some other secure file space that is safe from disaster. Never forget to backup your wallet, don't take a chance some unexpected event might delete your coins and have you crying over all that lost money! Good luck and try not to put all your bitcoin eggs in one basket!


Well that's about all the information anyone would need to start mining bitcoins today. I hope this guide/informational writing was useful to some people. Mining bitcoins can be fun in your spare time as a hobby with some monetary returns, who knows you might even enjoy taking it to new heights by investing in some expensive hardware. Whatever your choices for mining may be, I hope I'll have been a helpful resource for your bitcoin endeavors. Have fun with bitcoins, and always remember to be safe, smart and secure with your currency!

Enjoyed the Guide? Care to donate some coins?
If you enjoyed or appreciated this informational guide enough to tip the author, feel free to donate some bitcoins :)
My wallet address is:


Anything helps. Thanks again and keep on mining!!

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